Zone of the Enders HD Collection
Developed and published by Konami
Available for the PS3 and Xbox 360. Reviewed on the Xbox 360.
Pretty much everything Hideo Kojima touches turns into gold. One of the most celebrated video game developers today, fans will always flock to his latest projects with reverence. After all, most of the stuff he does is pretty great.
Zone of the Enders is one of his most popular side-projects. Originally out on the Playstation 2 in 2001, this fast-paced mech shooter perfectly captured the essence of robot anime with fast-paced action, giant battles, and an awesome sci-fi setting. Both the first entry and its sequel, The 2nd Runner, garnered acclaim from critics during the time of its release.
Now available once again for the PS3 and Xbox 360, the Zone of the Enders HD Collection collects both games and brings them to the next gen, with updated high-definition graphics. Are the improved visuals enough to bring gamers back for another ride with Jehuty, or should you just savor the good memories and move on?
Set in the 22nd century, Zone of the Enders tells the tale of a boy named Leo Stenbuck, who accidently finds the Orbital Frame (a mecha) known as Jehuty, after fleeing from an attack on his colony by rebel group BAHRAM. Scared and helpless, Leo defeats attacking automated Frames with the help of the onboard A.I. known as A.D.A., and is soon contacted by Elena of the Earth forces to return the Orbital Frame. However, things get complicated when BAHRAM wants the capture the Frame for themselves.
The 2nd Runner takes place 2 years after the events of Z.O.E. In similar fashion to the first game,a miner named Dingo Egret takes control of Jehuty after fleeing from another attack from BAHRAM. After being fatally shot by Nohman, leader of BAHRAM and pilot of sister Orbital Frame Anubis, Dingo must remain inside Jehuty if he wishes to live (as it acts as life support) and must fight the rebel group before all is lost.
Both stories are your typical anime plots, full of action, suspense and character drama. The main characters start out as weak, doubtful protagonists, but soon after grow as individuals and find a purpose. Seeing this transformation is enjoyable, but the plots surrounding them are somewhat bland and convoluted. There are however plenty of action-packed scenarios that keep the game from ever getting boring.
When it comes to the gameplay, players get to control the Orbital Frame Jehuty from a third-person perspective as they jet around and combat a wide range of other mecha. Environments are usually wide open spaces that allow Jehuty to freely fly across the environment, dash around and dodge enemy attacks with lightning-quick movements, and thanks to the simple and precise controls, managing the mech is as easy as possible.
Combat is quick and visceral, reminiscent of the greatest anime mech battles. Equipped with a variety of melee weapons and firearms, Jehuty can rapidly zip into opponents, deliver a quick flurry of melee strikes, and zip out to shoot from afar. Stronger blows can also be delivered if the dash is used in conjunction with attacks, and they look absolutely fantastic. Overall, the combat system in Z.O.E. is easy to use, really fun, looks absolutely epic.
Large-scale boss battles really take the combat to the next level, requiring a variety of strategies to take down the huge hulking pieces of metal. These encounters are really enjoyable, and really do great jobs at making players feel like the odds are against them.
While both titles have different ways of handing missions to players, the differences do not detract from the enjoyable experience. Z.O.E. features an overhead hub that allows players to choose which mission they want to tackle next, while The 2nd Runner features a more linear structure, taking players from level to level and dismissing mission selection. The mission types usually revolve around defeating enemies, picking up important items and protecting locations, and while the game may occasionally get repetitive, the fun combat prevents it from ever getting too bad.
The HD upscaling featured in both titles really breathes new life into the games. Although the textures do show their age and occasionally look muddy, and environments are sparsely detailed, the mechas look great and intricately designed, and are still some of the best today. The only thing the game has going against it visually are the old cutscenes, which weren’t touched up and look absolutely horrible. Perhaps new cutscenes or some cleanup to the old ones would have sufficed, but nevertheless we’re stuck with some prehistoric footage here.
The sound however is still as great as it was back then. The sound of metal bashing against metal, mechas dashing through the air, and powerful explosions are all on point. And the music, which was beautiful back then, is still haunting and fantastic.
Zone of the Enders will forever be revered as some of the finest mech action in video games, and it was a good move on Konami’s part to bring the game to the next generation. Thanks to the solid gameplay and excellent combat system, the two games in the Zone of the Enders HD Collection have stood the test of time, and will continue to do so for a good, long time.